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Tours & Cruises

September 21, 2003|Rosemary McClure | Times Staff Writer

BELIZE

Watch out for wildlife in reef and tropical rain forest

Prowl the jungles of Belize, where the big cats roam, on 11-day adventure tours that include nighttime excursions to see jaguars.

The trips, with six departures from Dec. 14 to March 25, include sea kayaking and snorkeling along Belize's barrier reef, the second longest such reef in the world. Then the group moves to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary and Jaguar Reserve for hiking, paddling and exploring.

"The preserve is in a rain forest and is an extraordinary environment," said tour director Paul Kamon. "We've seen ocelots, tapirs, scarlet macaws, howler monkeys, crocodiles."

Any jaguars?

"About one a year in the wild. We see lots of signs of them: fresh footprints, scat. But they're elusive. A jaguar can be right beside you and you don't know it. And sometimes you're afraid to know it."

Tour participants will use river kayaks to maneuver through the 100,000-acre park, which is managed by the Belize Audubon Society. They will use sea kayaks to explore the waters and cays of the barrier reef. Three nights will be in lodges or hotels, and seven will be spent camping.

Cost: $1,799 per person, including accommodations, use of equipment, most meals, guide services and transportation within Belize. Round-trip airfare from LAX to Belize City is not included.

Contact: Island Expeditions of Vancouver, Canada; (800) 667-1630, www.islandexpeditions.com.

ENGLAND

Wind up the holidays with retail therapy

Dive into retail therapy on a sale-season shopping trip to London.

The Jan. 9-to-15 trip takes advantage of London's annual after-the-holidays sales at the giant Harrods department store and other shops. There will also be a train trip to Bath, a walking tour of the city and an evening at the theater in London.

Cost: $1,649 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge $349), including round-trip airfare from LAX to London, accommodations, six breakfasts and one dinner, passes for transportation on the Underground, theater ticket and sightseeing.

Contact: Westminster-based Celia's Getaways; (714) 901-3510, www.celiasgetaways.com.

MEXICO

Roll up your sleeves in three culinary capitals

Spice up your life -- and cooking skills -- on a tour to three of Mexico's culinary capitals.

The Jan. 29-to-Feb. 7 tour includes three nights in Mexico City, three nights in Puebla and three nights in Veracruz. Silvana Esparza, chef and owner of Barrio Cafe in Phoenix, will lead the tour. Cooking demonstrations are planned in each region.

The itinerary includes an afternoon in Mexico City with chef and author Patricia Quintana, owner of Izote restaurant, and an afternoon in Veracruz with chef Tomasita Hernandez Melendez of Las Brisas del Mar. In Puebla, tour participants will learn how to prepare mole poblano, which originated in the city, and chiles en nogada (chiles in walnut sauce).

The group will also meet villagers and learn how to prepare family recipes.

Cost: $2,495 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge $585), including accommodations, most meals, ground transportation, demonstrations and sightseeing. Round-trip airfare from LAX to Mexico City is not included.

Contact: Painted Desert Art and Cultural Tours, Scottsdale, Ariz.; (480) 991-6994, www.painteddesert.com.

VIETNAM, CAMBODIA

Greet the New Year as you meet the local people

Visit tribal villages and meet craftsmen and artisans on a people-to-people holiday trip to Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Dec. 13-to-Jan. 4 trip will stop in Dalat, Vietnam, for Christmas and celebrate the New Year in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The tour focuses on off-the-beaten-path experiences and discourse with local residents. It will travel through Vietnam from Hanoi and Halong Bay in the north to Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south, ending at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom in Cambodia.

Cost: $1,995 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge $794), including accommodations, many meals, sightseeing with local guides, entrance fees and air and ground transportation within Vietnam and Cambodia. Airfare from Los Angeles International Airport is not included.

Contact: North Hills-based Glorious Adventures; (818) 893-9030.

FLORIDA

See how the glitterati live on the Gold Coast

Sizzle on the beaches and in the clubs of Florida's Gold Coast on a seven-day tour to Miami, Palm Beach and Boca Raton.

The Oct. 20 tour focuses on the region's mansions and grand hotels, with visits to several historic homes and tours of three top hotels: The Breakers in Palm Beach, the Boca Raton Resort and Club and the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables. Also scheduled are city tours, a cruise along Fort Lauderdale's inland waterways and a tour of Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables.

Cost: $1,869 per person, double occupancy (single surcharge $420), including round-trip airfare from LAX to Fort Lauderdale, shuttle transfers from home, accommodations, 11 meals, tours and baggage handling.

Contact: San Diego-based AFC Tours and Cruises; (800) 369-3693, www.afctours.com.

The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with travel agents, cruise lines or tour operators.

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